Reflections on the Readings
Thirty-Second Sunday in Ordinary Time - November 11, 2012 - Year B
The Year of Faith
Women of Faith
And a poor widow came, and put in two copper coins, which make a penny.
Today's readings present to us women of extraordinary faith. Both are widows. Both are living hand to mouth. Both have a robust faith. Each one is transparent in her trials, but not showy. The widow at Zarephath explains, "I'm gathering some firewood and then I'm fixing what will be the last supper for me and my son. After that we will die."
Jesus observes the grandiose contributions of the wealthy as they give their offerings at the Temple. They parade toward the Temple Treasury hoping to be seen. And then a widow slips in unnoticed and anxious and willing to give what she has determined to give. Her last two copper coins make a little clink as they fall to their destination landing against all the coins of the rich folks. But Jesus explains that she put in more than the rich folks because she put in all that she had.
Elijah encourages the widow at Zarephath. "Don't be afraid. Make me a cake first and then make something for you and your son. For the Lord God of Israel, says, 'The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.'" The generosity of this widow and the widow in today's Gospel is sacrificial. Such sacrificial generosity does not go unnoticed by the God who gives abundantly, pressed down, shaken together, and running over! (Luke 6:38)
The life of faith is an adventure in generosity. Jesus said, "For the measure you give will be the measure you get back." (Luke 6:38) Finger pointing and playing the blame game creates only more of the same. Cornering people with accusations we can't prove is the first ingredient to losing friends. The widows in todays readings don't blame God nor judge and blame others for their situations. Faith teaches us not only how to be generous with our money but it teaches our heart how to be rich in mercy and love and forgiveness. Jesus said, "Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over."
God invites us to be generous with our time, our talent, and our treasures. It is important to remember that little is much when God is in it. Whatever we give, no matter how small, if given and shared with the love of God it becomes more than we can imagine. God loves a cheerful giver. St. Paul taught that he who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly. When we give with the joy of sharing our giving becomes more than what we share. It becomes a gift of God's immeasurable love. The next time you are asked to play your piano piece for some one in the old folks home, do it for the love of God and you will be blessed beyond measure.
I am the firstborn of six children. My daddy sometimes worked two jobs to meet the needs of his growing family. He transformed the old Prior house on Second Street in Huntingburg, Indiana into a respectable house in the neighborhood. The old paint on the exterior had to be scraped off. When daddy finished painting that house it glowed with new life. I still remember the smell of old wall paper being steamed off the walls. New coal stoves were installed on each end of the house to keep us warm in the winter. I only remember a full table of food every time we sat down to eat. Daddy's generous efforts put a roof over our heads and from mommy's kitchen we had enough to eat. She had a close relationship with him who multiplied the five loaves and the two fish.
My mother cultivated in me a deep longing to know God. She taught me that the sky was the limit in how I could serve Him. When I conducted her funeral service I spoke about her memorable faith. Even when she was dying her love for God and her family never diminished. "It's a pretty day," she said, even when it was cloudy and rainy and when her life was draining away. From her I learned that life is rich and full of God's goodness. She didn't meditate on scarcity but rather she mused on God's inexpressible gift. In her heart was a melody of love that spilled out over all of us. It is the example and memory of her indomitable faith that has helped me to hold on to God's unchanging hand through some pretty dark days.
Mary is also a woman of great faith. Elizabeth said of Mary, "Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord." Mary's faith is the reason we have a Savior. Against great odds personally, socially, and within her own faith community, Mary embraced the message of Gabrielle. From a heart of faith she said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word." Because Mary believed, Christ appeared at the end of the ages to take away sin by his sacrifice. With his own blood, Christ appeared in the presence of God on our behalf. And when time shall be no more, Christ will appear a second time, not to take away sin, but to bring salvation to all those who eagerly await him.
What a difference women of faith have made in our lives and in our world. We are richer because of their love of God. Through their eyes we are blessed to see God and to gaze upon his goodness and to see the hope of our salvation more clearly. Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com